In this episode of the 10-Minute Trainer, we’re going to spend our ten minutes working on a cue combination that is often overlooked, if not just plain avoided. Love it or hate it (or even if you’re feeling ambivalent), the post turn is one of those things that sooner or later, you’re going to wish you’d spent a little time on! Even though I do incorporate blind crosses and some of the “fancier” cue combinations in my handling, they are not a substitute for the simple and effective cue combinations I keep in my handling toolbox.
Post turns may seem boring, and I don’t much like standing like a post myself while on course, but, they can also be tricky with respect to proper timing. The problem with the timing of a post turn is that if you turn your shoulders away from your dog while doing it, you can actually send your dog forward in an unexpected way, rather than cuing a turn. Rotating your shoulders away from your dog is a forward cue, and not a turning cue – so if your dog is turning toward you as you’re rotating away from him, it’s likely that you’re also decelerating, and that the deceleration is in fact cuing the turn, and not any shoulder rotation away from your dog. See Figure 1.
In a post turn, because you need to rotate in the same direction as the dog, this can present a problem, as your rotation creates multiple opportunities to inadvertently give your dog a cue to go forward rather than turn. See Figure 2a and 2b.
Many people view a post turn as something to pull their dog through with their inside shoulder. However, when there is a jump involved, this means your dog is always reading the cue of you turning your back on him, which is likely to send him further forward as you execute this maneuver, rather than to wrap the jump as tightly as you had expected or hoped for.
Rather than moving your shoulders ahead of your dog through a post turn, try imagining that you are staying slightly rotated toward your dog, asking him to continually bump up against your outside shoulder, which you’ll then continually rotate away from him, so he can continue to move through the turn. See Figure 3a and 3b.
This month’s 10-minute trainer exercise is more of an experiment than an exercise – as long as your dog keeps the bar up on the jump you’re going to be using, you can feel free to reward him, as it will be you who will be finding out just how much (or how little) shoulder rotation away from your dog your dog can cope with. What you will be doing in this exercise is exploring the timing of your post turns, so that you can do all sorts of different kinds of post turns, depending on the situation.
You’ll need two jumps for this exercise, and some small markers that you can put on the ground to mark the widest point of your dog’s turn (pieces of colored paper, or large coins, or similar objects, will suffice). Make sure you know which marker corresponds to which figure you’ve attempted. You may also want a video camera for this exercise so you can review your session later.
The set up for this exercise is shown in Figure 4. This will be the set up for a post turn, where your dog will start on your left, and you will be turning clockwise. For a counter-clockwise post turn, flip the set up horizontally.
In each case, for the set up shown in Figure 4, we will be doing a post turn with our dog on our left, where we are rotating clockwise. Be sure to do this in both directions, though! And, although I’ve got the jump shown at 4’ away in Figure 4, if your dog is extremely keen to take obstacles, you may want to expand your set up to a distance of 5-7’.
You are going to perform a series of post turns as shown in Figures 5a-5d. Each time, set your dog up at exactly the same distance from the jump, and stand in exactly the same location yourself. You may want to use the markers to help keep track of these locations. Each time you perform this post turn, as shown in Figures 5a-5d, use a marker to note the widest point of your dog’s turn, and note whether or not the dog takes the nearby off course jump.
Do your best to keep the presentation of your body the same to your dog throughout the post turn. This means that you will have to rotate as your dog proceeds through the turn, so that your dog stays parallel to the exact same point on your body – you may need to move slower or faster to accomplish this. For example, in Figure 5a, you will likely need to move your shoulders quickly away from your dog, but in Figure 5d, you will find that you will be rotating more slowly.
Do you notice any difference between these four different shoulder presentations to your dog with respect to the quality of the turn? With little speed, and a perpendicular approach to the jump, you may not! However, repeat the experiment with these two variations (Figures 6 and 7), and you may start to see a difference!
For the variation in Figure 6, locate yourself neither on the takeoff side of the jump, or the landing side of the jump, but rather, right on the plane of the jump, as shown. And again, make sure to set your dog up in the same location each time, as well as yourself. Use your markers to note the width of the dog’s turn for each attempt, and don’t forget to reward your dog, just as long as he keeps the bar up!
Finally, since you won’t often have the luxury of doing a post turn from a stationary location, add some speed and motion on the part of both you and your dog. Start off easy for yourself, by adding speed on the part of the dog first, while you remain stationary. If you have a tunnel, use the set ups shown in Figure 7a-b to repeat the above scenarios with your dog coming in to the set up with more speed. And, if you don’t have a tunnel, simply set your dog up further back (15-20’). Again, be sure to start your dog from the same location each time, and start in the same location yourself! Note that in these scenarios, I’ve removed the off course jump– you can remove it altogether, or move it to a more reasonable distance from the first jump, but you should still use your markers to keep track of differences in the widest point of your dog’s turn around the jump as you vary the presentation of your shoulders to your dog throughout the post turn. With these new set ups, repeat the procedure outlined in Figures 5a-d and 6b-e.
At the end of this short exercise, you should have a little bit better understanding of how the presentation of your shoulders relative to your dog can affect your ability to execute a great good old-fashioned post turn. And, because you’ve been rewarding your dog for every single one of these post turns (as long as the bar stayed up), your dog has also been reinforced for doing post turns!
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT POST TURNS AND SHOULDER PULLS?
Watch this video, which was a weekly webinar presented to my Agility Challenge group recently! Weekly webinars are just part of The Agility Challenge, my year long program that includes training, handling, league play, courses, and more!